Authors: Raymond Tucker
Raymond Tucker, D.S.M, CSCS, FMSL1, USATFL1, USAWLP-1
Assistant Professor of Kinesiology
University of Houston at Victoria
3007 N. Ben Wilson
Victoria, Texas 77901
Raymond Tucker is an assistant professor of Kinesiology at the University of Houston at Victoria. He is a graduate of the United States Sports Academy with a Doctorate in Sports Management, and he is a certified strength and conditioning specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is also a certified coach by the United States Track and Field Association, United States Weightlifting Federation, and Functional Movement Systems. He is certified by the state board of educator certification in Texas in health grades (EC-12) and secondary physical education (6-12).
Democratic Leadership Preferred by Male Student Athletes in Middle School Athletic Programs
The purpose of this study was to determine the perceived behavior style of leadership male student athletes in middle school athletic programs prefer their coaches use in their daily relations with their athletes. This study compared male athletes’ perception of their coach’s behavior style of leadership at three different middle schools to determine if the perceived behavior style of leadership is comparable between male coaches at the respective middle schools in this study.
Results of a previous study entitled “Male Athletes Perception of Coaches Behavior in University Interscholastic Middle School Middle Athletic Programs”, detected a statistically significant difference in the behavior styles of leadership perceived by male athletes at the respective middle schools in this study in the following dimensions. 1) democratic training, instruction, (2) autocratic, training, and instruction, (3) social support and training instruction, (4) positive feedback and democratic behavior, (5) positive feedback and autocratic behavior, and (6) positive feedback and social support. This previous study did not disclose a statistically significant difference between middle schools in the dimensions of (1) positive feedback, training, and instruction, (2) autocratic and democratic behavior, (3) social support and democratic behavior, (4) social support and autocratic behavior. The data collected from this study was based on male athlete’s perception of the behavior style of leadership used by their coaches. The results of this study revealed a high mean score for the democratic behavior style of leadership compared to autocratic behavior, positive feedback, social support, training, and instruction. Based on the results of the data for this study, we can conclude the democratic behavior style of leadership is the behavior style of leadership used by coaches at the respective middle schools in this study. What follows is the basis for this study, procedures used to conduct the research, an analysis of the data, conclusions, application in sport, and finally, recommendations for further research on this topic.
Keywords: coaching, coaching climate, male student athletes, athletic programs
The researchers purpose for selecting this topic is several of the studies on leadership and coaching have been conducted at the intercollegiate level, very few of these studies have been conducted at the middle school level. The middle school athletic program is very important in the development of the student athlete by teaching the importance of academic achievement, self-discipline, social and emotional skills, teamwork, and the technical and tactical aspects of the sport. Student athletes participating in middle school athletic programs will be introduced to a coaching staff who will enforce a behavior style of leadership and philosophy to accomplish the goals of the athletic program.
This behavior style of leadership used by the head coach or assistant coaches at the middle school level can have a positive or negative consequence on the student athletes in the program. If the behavior style of leadership is encouraging it will inspire continued participation in the athletic program. If it is undesirable, it could have some psychological effects and discourage further participation in the athletic program. Research studies conducted on the topic of leadership and coaching refer coaches to leaders (7,16,8,15,3). (1), state the type of leadership behavior displayed by the coach will have a significant impact on both athletes and team. This is because of the multiple roles (e.g. teacher/instructor, organizer/planner, counselor, communicator and motivator) here that coaches play in providing instruction, guiding skill development and offering performance feedback in their quest to achieve the objectives of the sports organization (18). Researchers (5) state coaches play a pivotal role in the physical and psychological development of their athletes’. This supports research studies by (6). The type of leadership behavior displayed by the coach can have a significant effect on the performance and psychological well-being of the athlete.
The researcher explains the behavior style of leadership used by coaches can be contributed to their age, gender, personality, ability and experience, and their psychological development. Research studies conducted by (17), state today’s coaches are notorious for applying very strict rules and polices. Coaches are using a strong form of discipline to control their athletes by using fear as their behavior style of leadership. This is known as the my or the high way attitude. (10), state the disciplinarian style of leadership was adopted by older coaches in the profession to place fear in their staff and athletes to conform to their rules. This behavior style of leadership is not concerned with student athletes having fun and enjoying their experience participating in athletics. This behavior style of leadership is geared towards achieving the goals of the coaching staff. Student athletes who can handle this authoritarian behavior style of leadership will tolerate it just to participate in athletics and those student athletes who can’t handle it will resign from the athletic program. Research studies by (17) found perceptions of the autocratic style in coaches contributed to athletes’ negative feelings regarding involvement, sense of belonging, and feeling of team closeness.
Youth sports and high school sports are important in the life of adolescents, as they are learning morals, values, and developing the necessary skills to succeed in life (19,13). Successful coaches who can develop young athletes beyond sports understand the different behavior styles of leadership and understand how to use these behaviors in the treatment and daily interaction with their athletes (1). The type of leadership behavior displayed by the coach will have a significant impact on both athletes and teams. Success in sports coaching depends, largely on the leadership style of the coach. It is expected of the coach to try and ensure that they us congruency between the required, actual and preferred leadership behavior (4).
Coaches should take the time to gain an understanding of the leadership behavior that fits their athletes and one that the athletes prefer. Researchers (2) add if a coach adapts his or her behavior to comply with the athletes’ preferred behavior, the athlete may be more readily inclined to repay the coach through an improved performance.
The democratic behavior style of leadership is a behavior that fosters participation by the athlete when it comes to making decisions pertaining to group goals, practice methods, game tactics, and strategies. The democratic behavior style of leadership also builds and encourages the coach and athlete relationship. The coach athlete relationship may be the most important sport interaction (11). This relationship is most effective when a dynamic process exists in which coach and athlete share interrelated thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (9). Coaches who operate under a cooperative, or democratic style, work with their athletes to help make appropriate decisions and set their own goals, which follows that athletes are first, and winning is second (12). The researcher will be conducting a study “Democratic Leadership Preferred by Male Student Athletes in Middle School Athletic Programs” this study will examine the perceived behavior style of leadership used by coaches in male middle school athletic programs.
Subjects for this study were 170 male student athletes who participated in middle school athletics throughout their 7th and 8th grade year at the same middle school. The age ranges for these male student athletes was 12-15. The researcher’s purpose for not including incoming 7th graders or those new to the athletic program is they could not give a clear and precise assessment of the perceived behavior style of leadership that their coach is using. The schools selected for this study were three different middle schools from Central Texas, which include Bastrop, Cedar Creek, and Elgin middle schools.
Data for this study was collected using the Leadership Scale of Sports (LSS) questionnaire with the permission of Dr. Packianthan Chelladurai Ph.D. at Ohio State University. The questionnaire measures an athlete’s perception of their coach’s behavior style of leadership and consists of forty items that all begin with “My Coach.” These forty items represent five dimensions of leadership behavior in sports and operationally defined in (3). The scoring of the Leadership Scale of Sports questionnaire was based on an ordinal scale, five-category scale that consists of a numerical number: 1. Always; 2. Often (about 75 % of the time); 3. Occasionally (50% of the time); 4. Seldom (about 25% of the time); 5 Never. Each of the forty items on the Leadership Scale of Sports questionnaire represents one of the five latent dimensions of leadership. These five dimensions were (1) autocratic behavior, (2) democratic behavior, (3) positive feedback, (4) social support, and (5) training and instruction. To facilitate clarity of content for each item for the subject, the five listings of leadership were displayed across the page specific to the stem of each item with the number that represents the style of leadership listed under that category the male student athletes who are completing this questionnaire do not know which question represents what dimension of leadership.
Middle School Athletic coordinators at each middle school were given verbal directions in person prior to the questionnaires being mailed. The data was analyzed quantitatively using the 15.0 version of Statistical Package for Social Sciences. Several statistical tests were used to analyze the data. The Freidman test is a test used for two-way repeated measures analysis of variance by ranks. This test was used to determine the statistically significant difference based on gender among the three middle schools in at least one of the five dimensions of leadership behavior. The Wilcoxon signed-rank test is a non-parametric statistical hypothesis test used for two related samples or repeated measures on a single sample. To determine the location of the difference, a series of Wilcoxon signed-ranks tests using the Bonferroni adjustment to the p-value were administered. Because there are ten comparisons to be measured, 0.05 was divided 10, rendering a new p-value of 0.005 The Kruskal-Wallis test is the non-analog test, an ANOVA; this test was used to compare three or more medians among schools based on gender. For this study the data collected was used by the researcher to compare male student athletes at the three respective middle schools.
The results of the Friedman Test show the mean ranks of the behavior styles of leadership in this study. The democratic behavior style of leadership ranks the highest amongst the middle schools in this study with a 3.93.
Table 1: Mean Rank Behavior Styles of Leadership
The results of the Friedman Test show in male athletes there was a statistically significant difference in at least one of the five LSS dimensions of leadership behavior χ2 (4, N = 170) = 272.05, p < .001. To determine the exact difference in the LSS dimensions among males at Bastrop Middle School, Cedar Creek Middle School, and Elgin Middle School, a series of pairwise comparisons were conducted by performing a series of Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test using a Bonferroni adjustment to the p-value. Because we made 10 comparisons we need to divide 0.05/10 = 0.005. Our new p-value then is .005.
Table 2: Test Results for Comparisons of Behavior Styles of Leadership
a Based on negative ranks.
b Based on positive ranks.
c Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test
Based on the results of the Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test clearly show a statistically significant difference at the 0.005 level between the following dimensions (1) democratic and training and instruction, (2) between autocratic and training and instruction, (3) between social support and training instruction, (4) between positive feedback and democratic behavior, (5) between positive feedback and autocratic behavior, and (6) between positive feedback and social support. For this study, we look at the statistical significant differences between (1) democratic and training and instruction, (2) between positive feedback and democratic behavior.
The researcher will discuss the statistically significant differences among males between the following dimensions: (1) democratic behavior and training and instruction, and (2) between positive feedback and democratic behavior. The first statistically significant difference between males at the respective middle schools occurred between the dimensions of democratic behavior and training and instruction (see Table 2). The results of the Freidman test show a mean rank score of 1.89 for the training and instruction behavior style of leadership and a score of 3.93 for the democratic behavior style of leadership among males at the respective middle schools for this study (see Table 1). The data reveals male coaches at the three middle schools for this study place more emphasis in the democratic behavior style of leadership compared to training and instruction. The second statistically significant difference between males occurred between the dimensions of positive feedback and democratic behavior (see Table 2). The results of the Freidman test show a mean rank score of 1.94 for positive feedback and a score of 3.93 for democratic behavior (see Table 1). The data reveals male coaches at the respective middle schools place more emphasis in the democratic behavior style of leadership compared to the positive feedback behavior style of leadership.
The results of this study undoubtedly show the democratic behavior style of leadership is the perceived leadership behavior style used by coaches at the three middle schools for this study. This supports research studies by (14), which prove that coach’s perceived behavior has a significant impact on the player and satisfaction. (2) found that if coach behavior meets the preferred needs of their athletes, it would be much easier to get them to comply with the demands of the coach. The researcher explains the democratic behavior style of leadership used by coaches at the three middle schools in this study have developed a culture, which establishes a healthy relationship with each student athlete, and gives them the opportunity to express their opinions and ideas in the operation of the athletic program. The main purpose of any middle school program is to ensure kids are having fun, and to place the gratification of playing sports first before winning. Coaches at the middle school level should continuously work to promote healthy behaviors that include cooperation, sportsmanship and personal growth.
APPLICATION IN SPORT
The author of this study makes the following recommendations for further research. First, research studies should be conducted in school districts to determine the behavior style of leadership used by coaches at the middle school level. The second recommendation would be to conduct research studies to determine why male student athletes continue or discontinue to participate in middle school athletic programs. It is the goal of this study that coaches consider the data in this study and use it to improve on the behavior styles of leadership used in their daily interaction and treatment of their athletes. Researchers should pursue additional studies on this topic and coaches should consider this and similar studies to improve their interaction with athletes in middle school athletic programs.
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